New York City Sues T-Mobile For Ripping Off Its Prepaid Users

from the not-very-uncarrier dept

While T-Mobile has built a brand on the claim it's hugely different from the other big wireless carriers, it routinely likes to illustrate the limits of that claim. Like the time T-Mobile CEO John Legere mocked the EFF after the group noted T-Mobile routinely violated net neutrality (it also supported killing the FCC rules). Or the time the company hired Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski, shortly after he'd mocked a kid with Downe's Syndrome on live TV, just to get a leg up on its Sprint merger approval process. And that's before you get to the steady stream of bullshit T-Mobile has been pushing to get that deal approved.

That's not to say that T-Mobile hasn't done some good things in the industry, just that when push comes to shove the entire consumer-friendly schtick is only skin deep.

Another case in point: New York City has filed suit against T-Mobile (pdf) alleging that the company's "Metro" (formerly MetroPCS) prepaid arm routinely rips off its customers. More specifically, the complaint alleges that Metro routinely sells customers used phones disguised as new, buries caveats, restrictions, and surcharges in fine print, and offers a "30 day money back guarantee" the complaint claims is "wholly illusory, and completely deceptive":

"...the MetroPROMISE® Return Policy has nothing in common with a “30 day guarantee,” nor does it resemble what the Virtual Chat Assistant describes. Instead, it expires in seven days and two of its most restrictive and unintuitive features – its inapplicability to phones bought for an existing line of service and defective phones – go unmentioned by the Virtual Chat Assistant."

In other words, T-Mobile's prepaid stores are using the exact bullshit tactics CEO John Legere has spent several years mocking AT&T and Verizon for on Twitter. The complaint says misleading behavior was the norm across numerous 56 Metro locations (run directly and by "authorized dealers") across all five boroughs of New York City. This particular example is notable:

"In January 2019, Vashti Anais Wagner shopped for a phone advertised for $599. Defendant Metropolitan Wireless Anandpur Inc. (“Anandpur”) charged her $710 for the phone, according to a receipt. The Anandpur employee then filled out a SmartPay contract, entered Ms. Wagner’s email address as noemailft67484@gmail.com, and falsely recorded the phone’s purchase price as $1,150. The employee did not show Ms. Wagner the contract, appears to have e-signed it in her name, and did not tell her that she would be leasing the phone rather than buying it outright. Thus, unbeknownst to Ms. Wagner, SmartPay had leased the phone to her for $199.21 per month, totaling $2,191.30 – $1,592.30 more than the advertised price; $1,481.30 more than the prices supposedly charged by the Metro Store; and $1,041 more than price surreptitiously recorded on the contract by the Metro Store employee.

Charging users $2,191 for a $699 phone, eroding user rights with fine print, and hitting customers with "illegal taxes, mystery fees, and fees for unwanted services" is not very "uncarrier" (the term T-Mobile marketing uses to make it clear how it's not like other giant US telecom operators). But again, if you've watched T-Mobile suck up to Trump at his hotels during its bid to get its $26 billion merger with Sprint approved, this disconnect likely doesn't come as much of a surprise.

To be fair, T-Mobile's presence in the market was initially a good thing. While T-Mobile's impact on wireless pricing has largely been over-hyped, the company's aggressive tactics early on helped pressure other carriers into lowering costs of international roaming, eliminating the scourge of long-term contracts, and killing off several other dumb tactics that had been industry mainstays for years. But as T-Mobile grows more powerful it's becoming apparent they're not so different as marketing would suggest, and if the Sprint merger is consummated and competition is reduced by 25%, that point is going to be made even clearer in short order.

Filed Under: fine print, metro, new york, new york attorney general, rip off, scams
Companies: metropcs, t-mobile


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2019 @ 9:11am

    Guess Richard Bennett's going to be wearing the thick kneepads today. That damage control ain't going to suck itself...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    AricTheRed, 9 Sep 2019 @ 9:19am

    Good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2019 @ 10:45am

    Well there's all kinds of illegal happening with that one womans phone purchase, what the heck.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Bobvious, 9 Sep 2019 @ 2:08pm

    "Uncarrier"

    Four legs good, two legs better

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Sep 2019 @ 3:39pm

    Downe's Syndrome?

    FFS, Karl - it's "Down syndrome".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    bhull242 (profile), 9 Sep 2019 @ 6:16pm

    What’s the point in recording $1,150 if that’s not how much she was actually charged, nor was it what the woman was told she paid, and wasn’t what the advertised price was? I get why they lied the other times, even if it was evil and unfair, but what benefit did they get there?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Sep 2019 @ 1:26am

    Re:

    I get why they lied the other times, even if it was evil and unfair, but what benefit did they get there?

    Assuaging what is likely a compulsive mental disorder?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 10 Sep 2019 @ 12:09pm

    What's this I'm feeling?

    Is this…pride for my city government? I've felt this many times before, but this feels like something that could finally break my cynicism after decades thereof! Hallejujah! I have finally entered the promised land!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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